The exit of gaming firm BetKing as title sponsors of top flight league and the third tier points to tough times for our football, but once again I blame Football Kenya Federation (FKF) for putting the beautiful game into disrepute.
The betting firm last week terminated its Sh1.2 billion deal for the FKF Premier League and Sh100 million for the Division One League.
BetKing announced their exit via a statement signed by their Country Director Ivana Ristic and FKF President Nick Mwendwa, just a few days after Nation Sport exclusively reported that the betting company had taken steps to end the partnership, aggrieved by what they termed breach of contract by the federation.
I blame it on Mwendwa and his team because this is not the first time sponsors have abandoned Kenyan football during his chaotic regime.
Betking was the official title sponsor since July 2020 on a five-year contract with each club entitled to Sh8 million grant. Division One clubs were entitled to at least Sh500,000 in annual grants each.
Memories are still fresh in the minds of stakeholders four years ago when SuperSport ended its stay in Kenya in 2017 following a court battle between Football Kenya Federation (FKF) and Kenya Premier League Limited (KPL).
Issues of increasing teams in the league from 16 to 18 teams, saw SuperSport pull the plug on its broadcast sponsorship deal worth hundreds of millions every year.
Since the South-African owned pay TV channel called it quits almost five years ago, Kenyan football has never gotten a reliable broadcast sponsor.
A verdict passed by the Sports Dispute Tribunal (SDT) then upheld FKF’s decision, thus jeopardising the SuperSport deal to beam KPL matches live.
We remember how it took the intervention of Fifa to stop the madness ensuing by sending a delegation to cool temperatures and bring the warring football factions together.
After SuperSport’s exit, FKF failed to honour their promise of offering proper financial support to our clubs.
KPL also suffered a silent death after FKF took the mandate of running the top tier, but since then the state of our football and in particular the Premier league is on its deathbed.
FKF had promised to give KPL financial support for having 18 teams in the league. They never did until SportPesa came to rescue, only for the betting firm to halt their operations after their license was revoked by the government in October 2019. They were accused of not paying taxes running into billions.
KPL, who were mandated to run the top flight league by clubs, had made our league more professional unlike today where rescheduled fixtures have become the order of the day to favour certain teams popularly known as “timu za ofisi”.
When KPL was in charge, cases of hooliganism had reduced and the league could attract quality sponsors.
Before SportPesa came on board the Kenyan Premier League was sponsored by East African Breweries Limited under the Tusker brand.